A French citizen employed in his country’s consulate in Jerusalem will appear in an Israeli court Monday charged with smuggling more than 70 weapons to Palestinians under the cover of diplomatic immunity, according to security officials.
Israel's Shin Bet security agency said Romain Franck, 23, was alleged to have used a diplomatic car to avoid checkpoints as he smuggled 70 pistols and two assault rifles from Gaza to the West Bank.
“This is a most serious incident, cynically exploiting the immunity and additional privileges extended to foreign representatives to Israel,” the agency said.
It said Franck, who was arrested crossing the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip in February, was suspected of having made at least five trips to smuggle the weapons.
Shin Bet said he had been passed the guns by a Palestinian working at the French Cultural Center in Gaza, delivering them to another Palestinian in the West Bank. It alleged that Franck, one of nine people arrested over the scheme, had acted for financial gain.
Franck had worked at the consulate in a number of roles, including driver, making regular trips between Jerusalem and Gaza.
“We take this case very seriously and are in close contact with the Israeli authorities,” a spokesman for the French embassy in Tel Aviv said. The man is receiving consular protection.
Last month, police in Argentina revealed they had busted a huge international drug-smuggling ring running high-quality cocaine to Europe through the diplomatic courier service of the Russian embassy.
Cover image: A general view taken on October 16, 2017, shows the Erez border crossing in Beit Hanun in the northern Gaza Strip. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)